Voice Your Concerns! Gov Herbert’s Common Core Survey Ends August 31st   3 comments

CALL TO ACTION: UTAHNS, VOICE YOUR CONCERNS!

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Governor Herbert has asked for feedback on the Common Core Standards.  Send him an overwhelming, undeniable message that the standards are strongly opposed by going to the Governor’s special website to take a Common Core survey.  The survey ends on August 31st, 2014. 

Please ADD YOUR VOICE.  Here’s the link to the survey: http://www.utah.gov/governor/priorities/education.html

This is something every person can do to make a difference.  If every person on the UACC petition list (over 11,000) will post comments,  and if every person asks his spouse/student/parent/grandparent/neighbor to do so, it will send a loud and clear message that opposition is building.

Don’t spend too much time on it.  Just get it done.  You don’t have to be a standards expert to have experience and an important opinion.   This survey is asking for the average Utahn to voice his or her feelings about Common Core.

Feel free to quote the experts in your commentary–  Dr. James Milgram, who served on the official validation committee for the Common Core math standards and refused to sign off on their academic legitimacy, should not be ignored by the Utah State School Board.  Read his comments on Common Core math standards here.  Sandra Stotsky, who served on the official validation committee for the Common Core English Language Arts standards and refused to sign off on their academic legitimacy, should not be ignored by the Utah State School Board.  Read her comments on the Common Core English standards here.    You can also read a Common Core 101 post with links to obvious, damning research here.

If the Governor gets few responses, his pro-Common Core standards review committee will take it to mean that most Utahns accept or approve of Common Core.

 

Civil Disobedience   2 comments

I wrote this essay for the Libertas Institute essay contest. If you like it, please click on “like” at the Libertas link before August 22nd 2014, and share it so that I have a shot at the prize for the most “like”s. Thank you. Also, thanks to Libertas for asking Utah citizens to think and write about this important subject.

esther

 

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Queen Esther of the Bible modeled the proper role of civil disobedience when she chose to break the law to free her people from the sentence of death. She did not shrink from personal consequences that her act of agency would bring. She said, “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

Esther illustrated the justification for civil disobedience: we break a law only when lawful appeals cannot overcome threats to life, liberty, property, or free exercise of conscience; when it’s the only honorable course. Esther’s selfless act contrasts with the self-indulgence of others who break laws without being willing to shoulder the consequences.

Martin Luther King wrote about that willingness: “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Thoreau explained that governments were only able to commit wrongdoings, to “crucify Christ and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels,” because individuals upheld bad governments by their failure to exercise agency, who “serve the state…as machines.” He pressed every individual not to “resign his conscience” to a government, and asked, “Why has every man a conscience then?”

Utah’s predominant religion teaches “We believe… in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law” (Article of Faith 12) and warns: “sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected ” (D&C 134). But further study of D&C 134 reveals that “thus protected” means “protected in their inherent and inalienable rights” –defined as “free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” “Thus protected” is key: we honor government as long as we are protected in our inalienable rights. When laws fail to protect, when foul oppressions are enacted, people of conscience recognize the duty –of lawful pushback when possible, and of civil disobedience when regular appeals fail.

Pondering heroic acts of civil disobedience helps to clarify the difference between noble and ignoble disobedience.

1. 150 B.C. – Abinadi of the Book of Mormon defied the rule against freedom of speech and willingly faced the consequence of death by fire. 2. 1500′s – English protestants by the hundreds were burned at the stake or beheaded for breaking the law in refusing to follow the state religion under Queen Mary I (“Bloody Mary”). 3. 1776 – Many signers of the Declaration of Independence were punished or killed for signing, which was an act of civil disobedience under British law. 4. 1850′s – Harriet Tubman traveled between Northern and Southern states, illegally freeing 300 slaves. 5. 1940′s – Sweden’s diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, jumped on top of trainloads of Jews on their way to death camps; ignoring governing protocol and soldiers’ warning bullets, Wallenberg gave out illegal passports and ordered captives to exit the trains. He saved thousands and then lost his own life in a Russian prison. 6. 1940′s – Holland’s Caspar Ten Boom illegally hid Jews during World War II. He responded to those who criticized him: “You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.” 7. 1950′s – Rosa Parks was arrested for breaking segregation laws by deliberately sitting “illegally” on a bus. 8. 1989 – China’s “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square deliberately walked straight into communist tanks aimed to quell all freedom-seeking demonstrators. He was seized; it’s unknown whether he was executed. 9. 1990′s – Mongolia’s Oyun Altangarel, a state librarian, was fired for seeking freedom of religion and speech, but her organization’s hunger strike moved her country toward freedom.

Oppression is not only found in distant times and countries. It’s happening under our noses in 2014 in Utah –as are corresponding heroes of civil disobedience. Consider three stories.

1. In 2013, the Salt Lake Tribune published teacher Ann Florence’s op-ed, in which Florence wrote about “an avalanche” of counter-productive mandates which did not benefit students and did cause teacher demoralization. She lamented standardized tests and Common Core. She wrote, “We are tired of the threats and disrespect… tired of having our dedication reduced to a number. Educating children is… a life’s work that deserves the highest honor.”

In 2014, when Florence openly criticized computer-adapted standardized tests as “a waste of time and irrelevant,” refused to grade them, and spoke out to news media, the honors English teacher was fired by Granite School District for “a pattern of noncompliance”.

Florence told ABC4 news, “I am challenged constantly to teach my students to consider their own opinions, to examine their opinions …but when I try to employ critical thinking as a teacher and I have the support of hundreds of other teachers, I’m silenced and I’m fired.”

2. When Stuart Harper, St. George High School Physics Teacher, spoke out against the Common Core “reform,” he was threatened with job loss.  Harper had stated that he didn’t like Common Core being “pushed upon us [teachers],” nor could he tolerate the “lack of control we have over its content.” He criticized the “awful quality of its math core,” an “over-emphasis on testing,” “burdens on schools for curriculum changes and data collection” and said that “its focus drives schools deeper into the political realm and further from real education.”

The district told Harper he’d created rebellion and insubordination. They insisted that he accept their claims about Common Core– as if seeking verification was not scientific; as if truth cannot hold up under scrutiny; as if freedom of thought equals insubordination; as if debate equals unethical conduct.

Harper reasoned with officials, saying, “my intent was not to promote rebellion, but to simply encourage personal research on the subject and exercise freedom of speech on my off time, as a citizen and father. I was told, ‘Those freedom of speech rights you are probably referring to do not apply’ … I made it clear that if I continued to be intimidated into silence that I would resign…”

Harper would not be silenced, though he knew that the system “expects acceptance and conformity to its decisions… and even goes as far as intimidating and threatening those who have differing opinions. ” In his resignation letter, he wrote, “Any society or organization that silences and discourages freedom of speech removes the possibility to express ideas…” He revealed that the system hurts not only teachers’ freedom of conscience but also students’ freedom of conscience: it “no longer promotes learning, but rather focuses on training. It teaches what to think, not how to think.”

Harper was pressured to resign and did resign– not just over academically inferior standards, but over “an environment that clearly has no respect for the Constitutional right of free speech.”

3. When Utah high school student Hannah Smith (not her real name) saw, during the state’s Common Core (SAGE) test, that an objectionable test question should be viewed by parents, she captured screen shots of the question with her cell phone. She sent them to her mother, and they were shared, published and viewed nationally.

Smith was threatened by administrators with possible loss of graduation and was told that she was a cheater. The teacher who had been in the room was also threatened with professional action. State education leader Judy Park was quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune, threatening, “Any licensed educator that has been involved, I will report to UPPAC (Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission of the state Board of Education), because they have now violated the obligation to follow ethics.” Park added, “[A]ll this concern about Common Core and SAGE has led us to the point that parents are encouraging students to break the law.”

Utah’s government uses multiple methods to stifle debate and freedom of thought in education. Utah teachers and school staff report (anonymously) that they must conform to education and data reforms without discussion. They’re told that they may not inform parents nor students of legal rights to opt out of SAGE testing, nor speak out against the Common Core without punishment for insubordination.

Key to the coffle is the state school board’s selection procedure, which narrows the candidate pool before voters get a chance to vote. The selection procedure starts with a survey that asks whether candidates support Utah Core/Common Core. It is further narrowed by insider committees and narrowed again by the governor to two pre-selected candidates. From these, voters may choose one. A rejected candidate recently sued the governor, calling this selection procedure “viewpoint discrimination.”

Why must we reclaim the sacred freedom to disagree and debate? Benjamin Franklin explained: “Grievances cannot be redressed unless they are known; and they cannot be known but through complaints and petitions. if these are deemed affronts, and the messengers punished as offenders, who will henceforth send petitions?”

Speaking against inappropriate education reforms now ranks as civil disobedience for Utah educators. Utah parents who opt children out of SAGE tests are sometimes chided by school administrators as “unsupportive” of schools despite the law upholding the parental right to opt out of the tests.

Utah’s predominant religion says that we “do not believe that human law has a right to…… bind the consciences of men” (D & C 134). It states that the “magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.” The chapter teaches “that the commission of crime should be punished… all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment” (D&C 134). I think Thoreau would agree: he called government’s harm to conscience a “sort of bloodshed” and said, “through this wound a man’s real manhood” flows out. He wrote: “we should be men first, and subjects afterward.”

Although Utahans are witnessing the lack of freedom being put into place by the Common Core tests and Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS) –most fail to step forward.

Why?

In part this may be because there is controversy over whether new standards harm or help, but it’s unarguable that the oppressive nature of implementation harms free exercise of parent/teacher conscience and that the tests and data collection systems make students unwitting guinea pigs of D.C.’s experiment. These things should matter; even those who believe Common Core’s claim to improve education may recall that the Declaration of Independence speaks of “consent by the governed” which Common Core can’t claim since it wasn’t vetted by teachers, parents or taxpayers prior to adoption.

Fact: Utah’s government oppresses exercise of conscience by threatening job loss to educators who exercise it. Teachers governed thus are not protected in their inalienable rights. Fact: because the government creates no allowance for parents to opt children out of its federal-state database tracking system (State Longitudinal Database System) it also violates parental “right and control of property”–privacy being personal property. Fact: for at least two years the state school board (collectively) has rejected every plea for relief from parents and teachers on this matter, and the legislature has not succeeded in righting the wrong.

The choice then has become to behave as silent property, as governed as cooped chickens, or to rise to the scary, defining moment of Common Core. Stand-up actions (parents opting students out of testing, administrators claiming the right to say no) may result in ridicule or job loss but may be the only way we can defend the Constitutional right to local control of education, the only way to do the right thing.

Consider Thoreau’s words: “under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

For the sake of our American liberties and for the sake of our children, it is time for those who share the spirit of Queen Esther to echo her example: “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

Video and Photos: Utah Protesters Outside State School Board Meeting   3 comments

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Yesterday, Utah’s Stop Common Core folks followed the example of Oklahoma and Maine, wearing grass-green T-shirts for a protest held in Salt Lake City outside the offices of the Utah State School Board.

Trucks honked, kids danced, families waved signs. Honestly, it was fun.   A teenage protester (who was dancing with his “My Education is Not Your Experiment” sign) said he thought we were “pretty amateur protesters”.  We are!  Next time, we need soap boxes, megaphones for the cheerleaders, and a lot more people.

Two thousand people had signed the letter asking the board not to renew the federal waiver, in just 24 hours.  But they didn’t all show up in person at the protest.  Neither did the almost 12,000 people who have signed the Utahns Against Common Core petition.

Still, so many green shirts packed the public meeting of the board after the protest  that two hallways outside the meeting were filled with green shirts, as well as the whole board room being filled and encircled by standing green shirts who could not find seats.  The testimonies were incredible.  Anyone without an already hardened heart would have been moved.  I wish I could give you a link to hear what was spoken.

The vote didn’t go our way.   The board signed the federal waiver that further cemented Utah to Common Core and continued the  illusion (a bluff by the federal Dept. of Ed) that there is any authority for D.C. to tell Utah what to do in our schools.

Continuing Utah’s relationship with the federal waiver means that we are two steps away from removing Common Core, rather than just one.  (This is because in order to get the federal waiver, Utah had to promise to do option A (common core) or option B (the also-unacceptable, unconstitutional  delegation  of state board authority to higher ed authorities).

A few board members had tried to sway the vote:  Jeff Moss and Heather Groom, and possibly one or two others.  We appreciate their efforts.  But except for adding some language that affirmed the board’s wish to be sovereign over Utah’s standards, the waiver application got signed and sent to D.C. without hearing the parents and teachers who pleaded and testified against this move.

If you still don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong on this issue, consider the motivations and rewards of those who are asking for renewal of the federal waiver and Common Core, verus those who are asking for cessation of the federal waiver and Common Core.  It’s pretty revealing to note that the letter to the board from Utah’s Chamber of Commerce members, favoring federal waiver renewal, was authored by Rich Kendall (the governor’s appointee to supposedly study whether Common Core is good or not) –who is a Gates grant recipient as an Education First member, and who is also a Common Core advocate as a Prosperity 2020 leading member.  Remember that Gates is THE main financier of the whole Common Core and Common Data agenda.   How can Rich Kendall be both an advocate for, and an impartial judge of Common Core?  How can business people, directly making money from the implementation of Common Core, pretend to be objective in this discussion?  How can the state school board take these people as credible witnesses?

There’s always the chance that D.C. will reject Utah’s waiver application as it did Washington’s.  Then we’ll only be one step away from the possible removal of Common Core.

 

 

 

More articles, videos and photos of yesterday’s protest and the school board’s vote:

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE – http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58276195-78/utah-waiver-board-state.html.csp

FOX NEWS – http://fox13now.com/2014/08/08/common-core-under-fire-at-utah-state-board-of-education-meeting/

DESERET NEWS – http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865608431/State-School-Board-approves-extension-of-NCLB-waiver.html

Texas Mother of 4 AP Students Testifies Against New History Standards #APUSH   4 comments

 

 

This mother of four AP students points out, among other things, that the new APUSH curriculum is anti-semitic.  It presents World War II in a way that excludes the atrocities of Hitler and the heroism of those who fought him.  This mother wants to know what the people of America are saying about the new College Board history curriculum which not only discludes the atrocities of Hitler, but does not include the Reverend Martin Luther King, nor Benjamin Franklin, nor the Gettysburg Address, nor the sacrifices and motivations of the signers of the Declaration of Independence–  a curriculum that makes no mention of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and barely mentions George Washington.

So do I.

 

Utahns Petition State School Board to Drop Fed Waiver and Common Core   1 comment

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If you have not already done so, please sign the petition letter that’s going to the State Board of Education.  Link here.

 

Tomorrow’s state school board meeting is a big deal.   Please be there and bring people.  Wear a grass green shirt to show opposition to the federal ESEA/NCLB waiver and to Common Core.

At 9:00 a.m., this peaceful outdoor protest by the offices of education will feature YOU and YOUR friends and family, with your signs, taking a stand.

We will take a stand against the stripping away of local control of our schools, the guinea pig-like academic experimentation on our children, and against the replacement of classic, time-tested education with the Common Core snake oil that nobody was consulted about, prior to being billed for.  We will  stand against the unconstitutional power grab of the Department of Education and claim the right as parents and as citizens to reclaim local control.  We are calling the bluff of the Department of Education, which pretends to authority that it does not hold.

If you have not already done so, please sign the petition letter that’s going to the State Board of Education.  Link here.

Another letter and petition has already gone to the State School Board from members of the Utah Chamber of Commerce and others.  It says the opposite message.  Understand:  the national and state Chambers of Commerce have put huge pressure on the state school boards to continue with the ESEA/NCLB waivers for one simple reason:  money.

In their  letter, signed by many Utah business people and local school board members, the governor’s appointee to review Common Core wrote that “as a key stakeholder, surely the perspectives and support of the business community are an important plan of any successful plan for improving education in the state.”  Translation:  “because we’ve invested money in the Common Core-based technologies and are making a mint off this experiment, and because we work for organizations heavily funded by Common Core financier Bill Gates, we want and claim a stake in your child’s education.”

Our letter, which was written yesterday, has already been signed by hundreds and hundreds of people.  It says this  (highlights):

 

To the Members of the Utah state Board of Education:

… To receive a waiver from NCLB, Utah agreed to option A, which required Utah to show proof that we had adopted Common Core.  In other words, the state was coerced into agreeing to a reform package that exerts a far greater control over our state education system than NCLB.

The waiver should not be renewed… The U.S. Constitution gives the federal government no opportunity to be involved in Utah education.  By renewing the waiver, Utah will be obligated to continue with their Common Core commitment to the federal government, which is a violation of both federal and state Constitutions.  

…Utah law states that we can and shall be flexible with our funding to utilize it to meet state goals and objectives over federal goals and objectives.

Concerns that there may be a reduction in federal funds affecting Title I schools should not stop the board from doing the right thing.

 It will be the responsibility of the legislature and the Governor to make sure that Title I schools have necessary funding.

Please do not sign the waiver.

Signed—

 

Please ask friends to  sign  our letter to the board.   Then come to tomorrow’s open board meeting and to the protest.   If you are unable to come, write to the state and local boards of education.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Common Core Lawsuit: Teachers and Parents v. Utah State School Board   2 comments

 

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So many Utahns have become so hopping mad* about Common Core in our schools that a few weeks ago, Governor Herbert publically announced that the state Attorney General will now conduct a “thorough legal review” of the rapidly adopted, unvetted education and testing standards.  He’s got a public input website  on the academic aspects of the Common Core.  But his main question is:  do the standards represent “federal entanglement”?

Well, that seems like an easy question  for the Attorney General!  Just read Utah’s Race to the Top application, with its federal points system based, in large part, on a state agreeing to take on the Common Core.  Or check out Obama’s four pillars of education reform.  Or check out Obama’s and Secretary Duncan’s speeches on the subject.  Or read the federal definition of “college and career ready standards.”  Not hard.

But federal entanglement’s not the only question.  A new Libertas Institute lawsuit  asks this key question:  Did the Board violate state law in rushing through Common Core’s adoption without legally required input from parents, teachers, employers, superintendents and school boards?  At least one public school has openly declared that not even slightly were they consulted.  And they’re not happy about it.

The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment, saying that the Board failed to consult with local school boards, superintendents, teachers, employers and parents as required by law (53A-1-402.6).  It asks for an order enjoining the Board from further implementing Common Core, from requiring schools to implement Common Core, and from enforcing Common Core.

I am happy to be one of the parents/educators who are the plaintiffs in this case, and grateful to Libertas Institute for footing the bill.

Go, fight, win.

 

libertas

 

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* Remember to attend  if at all possible this month’s public state school board meeting and the big protest THIS WEEK at the State Board of Education offices in downtown Salt Lake City:  August 8th, at 9 a.m.  Many Utahns against Common Core will be protesting with signs outside the building while others will be making public comment later, during the public comment segment around 10:30 inside the building.  See you there.

Panel to Reveal Anti-American High School History Framework – APUSH   5 comments

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An unrecognizable version of U.S. history, called APUSH, created by Common Core guru David Coleman and the College Board, is coming.

You can learn about its blatant anti-American bias at The National Review, Heartland Institute, Breitbart, Glenn Beck, and Wyoming Against Common Core.  You can read the APUSH framework itself here.

During an upcoming open conference call, three expert panelists will reveal and discuss what David Coleman’s new APUSH history curriculum framework contains, and why concerned educators and parents must speak out to stop this deformation of U.S. history in our teenagers’ minds, by informing our local and state school boards that this is unacceptable to us as parents and voters.

You’re invited to a telephone conference on this subject.  There’s no charge.  We’ll learn what the College Board has in store for America’s brightest students.

Call Monday, August 4, 2014 at 8 p.m. EST. The number to call is 530-881-1000, with access code 632867#.

A conference press release explains that APUSH pushes “a relentlessly negative view of American history” which minimizes or excludes American achievements while emphasizing every failing of our history.  The new AP history  does not even mention –at all– Jefferson, Franklin, Madison or Adams. It misrepresents motivations of settlers, misrepresents American involvement in World War II, and skews the American victory in the Cold War, for starters.

We cannot legitimize this negative, biased view of our founding by allowing it to enter our schools.  From the AP classes, its version of history may trickle down into non-AP classes and homes where it can damage influence and alter America.

History matters.

gandalf

 

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